August 25, 2009

Serving the Lizzie Borden Aficionados [7:40 am]

Oh, and getting the US Government to help increase profits through state-mandated exclusivity: Fall River museum wins marketing rights to Lizzie Borden’s name (pdf)

Webster, a 34-year-old who became fascinated with the accused ax-murderer as a preteen and today has a cat named after her, was not stocking up on any old souvenirs. These were exclusively trademarked tchotchkes, patented merchandise of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, which in a marketing coup has just landed the rights to the Lizzie Borden name and her black-humored brand.

The B&B, a popular downtown tourist attraction that draws up to 150 visitors a day, pursued the merchandising license from the US Patent and Trademark Office after a legal dispute last year with a Salem shop called The True Story of Lizzie Borden, which in a settlement agreed to change its name to the 40 Whacks Museum.

Owners said they hope it will dissuade competitors looking to capitalize on the unabated interest in the case, which enthralls historians, ghost-hunters, law students, and fans of the macabre.

“We wanted to protect our franchise,’’ said Lee-ann Wilber, who has co-owned the museum since 2004. “We want to keep the name and Lizzie Borden merchandise local, so people know they are buying something that comes from Fall River.’’

Trademarking a name out of history — I can understand the gall of applying for it, but I cannot believe that the USPTO actually gave it to someone. “Freedom of Expression” was a good trick, but this is truly indicative of just how far gone we are when it comes to converting things into property.

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